When we sit at a restaurant the very first thing we do is ask the server their name, because we want to address them by their name. Not mam or sir, but their name. There is something very intimate and powerful when you call someone by their given name. Somehow, for the time you spend with them, it binds you together. We have learned more about the lives of the people who have served us at our favorite restaurants, than about some of the people we attended church regularly with. It seemed they instantly shared themselves with our family. We had taught our children to respect and not be rude, to our servers, and they loved our children as well. We had one restaurant Kenny and I ate lunch at several times a week, Longhorn in Tallahassee, and the staff over the years had become so close to our hearts, we had seen them have babies, get married, split up, have parents die, and even lose a child to death. They had become people we cared about deeply. All because we simply asked them their name. And most of the time their names are on their shirts, and still people will not call them by name. It seems people want a separation of the “staff” and the ” I’m the paying customer!” When we are all just people going along trying to make our way. As I traveled this weekend and I looked at all the various people and I imaged all the statistics, the divorce, the domestic violence, the incest, the child molestation, the husbands having an affair, the people who have lost their jobs, yet dressed, trying to hold it together, no one making eye contact, and when I would smile and say hello, you would see a moment of validation,” I have been seen, someone noticed me, I matter”. I thought of what value our names hold, good and bad. It seems we have the ability to read people, to judge how people are feeling, then once we know how they are feeling to respond to them. Yet we chose not to. I heard about a program in British Columbia where educators are taking babies, for example, placing 20 of them in a classroom full of middle school age children with the babies wearing t-shirts labeled “teacher” on them. Kids observed the babies, then tell why the baby seems cranky, or happy or inquisitive or afraid. And the educators observed which children acted to help, or extend kindness, to make the babies more happy or comfortable in their environments. This was basically the roots of an empathy program designed to help kids become more observant to feelings of others, therefore becoming kind, therefore, hopefully, teaching these kids empathy for others. Strange, strange, strange, two generations ago, such a thing wouldn’t had to be taught, it was ingrained in us all, now it’s almost devoid in us. And sadly, not just outside the church, but, also, inside the church. I think that’s what makes someones name of that much importance, it makes them unique, it separates them from everyone else, it focuses your attention only on that person, no one else. The texts of Jesus’s life tell us Jesus doesn’t see us as one big hodge’podge of people who He loves, but when He sees the world, He has the unique ability to see every one of us as the one sole person, as if we are standing alone, just Him and you. It seems to me Jesus brought dignity to the marginalized, respect to the poor, He noticed the outcast. He called people by their name. When I felt that small whisper, “Angie share your story”, it was very distinctive, “Angie”, not “hey you”, or “oh, by the way”, no, it was a feeling in my being, it was like a deep thought, like if I sit and remember the last time Kenny told me he loved me, I can hear it in my mind, very real, very audible, without being audible. I can hear His tone, His voice, almost can feel His breath, it was like that. ” Angie, tell your story”. I have to believe God was calling me, ” ME” – out by name to do something. We all know the Bible stories of our youth, they very clearly speak of Jesus calling people by their names, walking along the beach he gathered his crew, by name! James, John, drop your nets its time, gather those on the sidelines, exalt the humble, embrace the outcast, Zacchaeus, get down, I know you are corrupt and sketchy, but, I am a Man of mercy, I bring grace, get down and feed me lunch, I am hungry, you are of value to me. And even when His biggest fan had abandoned Him, He sat by a fire and still singled him out and called him by name, “Peter, do you really love Me?” Because Jesus was always concerned with people, not what people did, or did not do, He saw them, as if they where the only person in the world, everything stopped at that moment for Jesus, to minister to that one. When I heard that whisper, Angie share your story, I thought God I cannot, I am too weak and war torn to share anything. You will have to find someone else. But, here’s the problem, all eyes where on me, the eyes of the Almighty. And He was calling me by name. Angie your life is no accident, no happen-stance, you are on this dirt road for a purpose, God sees in you, what no one else can do. As I typed this today I walked outside and there at the back door of this building was a small bird, of no significance, just a dull small gray bird, one that will live and die without any human ever knowing or caring it was here. But Jesus, Himself said something astounding, He once said, referring to a bird that they would offer up to sacrifice ( one priced so the poorest of poor could afford it) He said, God, Himself sees when that bird succumbs to death. My Granny use to read me the scripture out of Psalms that says He fashioned (your heart) individually. He pays great attention to the details of you, even numbering the hairs on your head. Yet, I lay their frightened out of my mind, scared to death considering my own talents and abilities. You see, loving people has never been an issue, having the faith to believe that I will make it through tomorrow has been another issue. Being giving and paying a families’ (one in which the father has been laid off) rent was easy for me, believing for my own mortgage to be met was another issue. Finding a drunk by the lake and bringing him home and feeding him was easy, believing God to feed my family was another issue. Finding the one in the room that looks broken and sad, I would be the first to single them out, but believing for my own healing from my own personal pain well, that’s another issue. Loving God has never been an issue, trusting I will maintain my senses, be a good mother, wife and friend, well that’s another issue. Sometimes all we have to hold onto is the call of our name. Angie, I called you to share your story, I will give you the courage, the strength and the tenacity it takes to see it through. You may not have the faith to believe for yourself, but I will believe for you, because I see you, I have called you by name, I have purposed this dirt road that no one else can take but you . It’s not your talents, or your abilities or your FAITH, it is my call on you to do what I have asked you to do. If you are faced with things you feel you just can’t manage, life is too hard, situations are just too painful, too big, well, the things we have faced, were too big,that is, without His eyes on us; but, let me tell you to listen for Him to call your name, you need no abilities, no special cleansing or Bible knowledge, all you need is one quiet moment to be able to hear and say yes. And whatever you are facing, He will face that with you as if it is just you and Him. Affliction will come, in many forms and always at the most unexpected moments, I certainly didn’t envision my dirt road beginning at 42, but the reality is-life hurts and we will have gray days and dark nights filled with pain. But, there is no shame in our pain, our culture tells us to hide our pain, facebook is a perfect example of this, (that will be another post), we mask our pain with fake smiles and different forms of addictions and deep down we believe nobody wants a friend with problems. We live in denial and act like it doesn’t hurt, when we are dying a slow death. Find, the name caller and He will guide you down your own dirt road.